The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 14, 2012

Election 2012: Q&A with District 4 County Commission candidate Ben Harrison

Name: Ben Harrison

Age: 52

Occupation: I am currently a small family business owner

Education: I am a West Limestone graduate and attended Calhoun College and Auburn University, obtaining a BS in chemical engineering.

Previous political experience: I have worked in numerous positions of various campaigns over the years supporting candidates, although this is my first campaign for elected office.

Community involvement: I am involved in a Bible study ministry at the Limestone County jail. We are members of the Business Network International. I’m involved in several business groups that help build local economy and industry.

Personal: I am married to Beth McGuire Harrison and we have four children, Erin Harrison Burton, Caleb, Olivia and Emily Harrison.

The News Courier: Do you feel your political party affiliation has any bearing on the duties of a county commissioner? Why or why not?

Ben Harrison: I definitely think that the political party you choose has an effect on the job of a county commissioner. The party affiliation may have no bearing on the duties themselves, but it does affect how those duties are carried out.

Candidates choose to run on the party that most accurately represents their own values. Therefore, if the party is more fiscally conservative when it comes to government spending and avoiding debt whenever possible, then it is more likely that the candidate will make decisions along those lines.

The Republican platform reflects my views better than the Democratic party platform. In order to run on the Democratic ticket you have to pledge your support for presidential candidate Barack Obama. I could never pledge to aid and support all Democratic candidates, as my opponent has.

NC: The County Commission has recently discussed switching to a unit system, which would combine district funds and equipment. Under this system, road and bridgework would be assigned by the county engineer based on greatest need. Are you in favor of this change? Why or why not?

Harrison: As your county commissioner, my first responsibly would be to represent the people of District 4. I think we need a close and personal relationship between government and the people. One of the responsibilities of representing you, is to use your money in the best and most economical way possible.

In consideration, and to better understand the unit system, I talked to 16 officials in six Alabama counties that now operate under the unit system. One thing I discovered during my interviews is that no two counties structured the unit system the same way. For example, some had a central shed and others used sheds in districts to stage equipment. Some had a county-run shop, and others contracted maintenance and repair with private businesses.

Some allocated money based on need irrespective of location, and one had a “gentlemen’s agreement” to split the money evenly between their two districts. Some commissioners worked with the county engineer to prioritize projects and allocate resources, and others laid all of the responsibility on the engineer.

There are a lot of decisions to be made as to how to best serve our needs in Limestone County. It is my view, that the unit system in Limestone County is not ready for an up or down vote at this time because the exact details have not been put on paper, and the citizens are not fully informed with those details.

I think it is important that we don’t sacrifice local control just to save money. I want the best of both — the savings and efficiency increase without the sacrifice of local control. With a little planning and the commissioners working together, I believe that we can craft a system that will meet and exceed the quality of services at reduced cost, whether it be the unit system or better communication and sharing between the districts.

As a lifelong resident of District 4, I feel our district has unique needs and challenges that need to be met and served with whatever decisions are made.

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